Build the Upper Body of an MMA Champ


Competing in the Octagon requires a combination of strength, flexibility, endurance, power, speed, mental toughness and a big set of compound exercises. The sport has come a long way from the original beer-guzzling, bicep-curling, 300-lb. fighters to the cut and muscled physiques of takedown artists like Conor McGregor.

The MMA Workout to Build Muscle >>>

These athletes are now peak physical specimens who work every aspect of their fitness through various functional movements and compound lifts. Training for Warriors specializes in getting the average person to look like a top MMA fighter while bringing a philosophy that will get you mentally focused for any challenge you come across in life. The best part about our program is that you don’t have to get a roundhouse to the face and ruin that money-maker of yours. Plus, you’ll start to fill-out that shirt pretty nicely.

Try this upper body workout by TFW’s Director of Operations, John Annillo, C.S.C.S., the first in our MMA Body Series, that will help bring out your warrior within.

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Target Muscles: 
Chest, Back, Shoulders, Arms, Abs
Workout Level:
Perform the workout up to three times per week with at least a day of rest in between.
Time Needed: 
45 minutes
How To Do It: 
Complete each round as “straight sets,” finishing all three sets of each exercise before moving on. Rest as needed between each round and record how long it took to complete the workout.

Round One

1a. Barbell Push Press 3 x 6 1b. Alternating Medicine Ball Push-up 3 x 10 (each side) 1c. MB Russian Twist 3 x 15 (each side) Rest for up to two minutes

Round Two

2a. Weighted Chin-ups 3 x 8 2b. Dumbbell T-Push-up 3 x 5 (each side) 2c. Medicine Ball Slam 3 x 15 Rest for up to two minutes

Round Three

3a. Alternating Dumbbell Bench Press 3 x 10 (each side) 3b. Towel Barbell Curl 3 x 10 3c. Medicine Ball Woodchop 3 x 8 (each side) NEXT: How to perform these exercises >>

Barbell Push Press

Hold a barbell at shoulder level and dip your knees as if you were about to jump. Explosively straighten your legs and drive the bar straight overhead. Lower your arms back to shoulder level. That’s one rep.

Alternating MedicinebBall Push-up

Get into push-up position, resting your left hand on a medicine ball. Lower your body until your chest touches the floor, and then do a push-up. Roll the ball to your left hand, and repeat. That’s one rep.

Russian Twist

Grab a medicine ball, dumbbell, or weight plate and sit on the floor with your hips and knees bent 90 degrees. Hold the weight straight out in front of you and keep your back straight (your torso should be at about 45 degrees to the floor). Explosively twist your torso as far as you can to the left, and then reverse the motion, twisting as far as you can to the right . That’s one rep.


Grab onto a chin-up bar with hands shoulder-width apart. Hang from the bar with your feet off the floor. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull your body up until your chin is over the bar and then reverse the movement to return to the starting position. That’s one rep.

Dumbbell T Push-up

Hold a dumbbell in one hand and get into push-up position. Perform a push-up as normal, returning to the starting position. Now rotate your body 90 degrees, reaching toward the ceiling with the hand that’s holding the dumbbell. Your body should form a T shape. Reverse the motion to return to the starting position. That’s one rep. Complete all your reps on that side, and then switch the dumbbell to the other hand and repeat on the other side.

Alternating Dumbbell Bench Press

Grab a pair of dumbbells and lie on your back on a flat bench, holding the dumbbells at the sides of your chest. Press one weight straight up, and then lower it back to your chest. Now press the other weight, and lower it back down. That’s one rep.

Towel Barbell Curl

Stand tall, holding a barbell with a towel wrapped around it (the towel will challenge your grip). Keeping your elbows locked against your sides, lift the bar until your elbows are fully bent. Reverse the motion to return to the starting position. That’s one rep.

Medicine Ball Slam

Stand holding a medicine ball straight overhead. Explosively throw the ball down in front of your feet then catching the ball as it rises. That’s one rep. Complete the reps as fast as you can contracting your abs as you slam the ball down.

Medicine Ball Woodchop

Stand holding a medicine ball above your left shoulder. Explosively rotate your torso diagonally downward and to the right as if you were chopping into a tree, until the medicine ball passes your right knee (allow your feet to pivot naturally). Reverse the motion to return to the starting position. That’s one rep. Complete all prescribed repetitions on one side before switching.

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